Half a year has passed since Michel Martelly was inaugurated as the new president of Haiti, and so far the earthquake-devastated country has seen little progress from his presidency. The reconstruction process is slow, and frustration and disgruntlement are growing among the population. Important time was wasted during the five months it took to appoint a new prime minister and put a new government in place. Martelly’s mandate was largely given to him by the country’s youth, who have high expectations of him.
Integrating youth into the reconstruction process is important for reasons of political stability, but young people also represent the country’s most important resource per se by constituting a large and – relative to their parents – better-educated part of the workforce. To battle the image of Haiti as a weak state in a land of strong NGOs, the Haitian state needs to assert itself and take on the responsibility of providing services to its citizens. Recruiting young people on a large scale for public sector employment in basic service provision and establishing a national youth civic service corps would strengthen the position of the state and let youth participate in the reconstruction process in a meaningful way. However, a civic service corps would demand high levels of co-ordination and transparency to avoid becoming an empty institution reinforcing patrimonial structures. The youth who brought Martelly to power represent a great potential asset for the country and need to be given the place in the reconstruction process that they have been promised.